VFX Challenges and success factors for the Animation Industry discussed at ABAI ‘07 -

Challenges and success factors for the Animation Industry discussed at ABAI ‘07

ABAI ‘07 made an effort to cover an array of topics. A session that dealt with the critical issue of ‘ Meeting Challenges and Defining Critical Success factors‘ had an impressive line up of speakers who shared their perspectives and pointed out in a clear and concise manner some of the critical issues that needed to be tackled.

Standing: Ashish Kulkarni (Moderator) Seated: From Left to Right: Jai Natarajan (MEL), Kannan (HP), Anand Gurnani (AnimationXpress.com), Naveen Gupta (MAAC), Yunus Bukhari (art.ERY), Prosenjit Ganguly (Toonz Animation India), Sumedha Saraogi (DQ Entertainment) & Nirav Shah (Zapak)

Moderating the session was Ashish Kulkarni (CEO, Anirights Infomedia) while other members of the panel included Naveen Gupta (COO, MAAC), Jai Natrajan (Animation Consultant, MEL), Yunus Bukhari ( CEO, ART.ERY Animation and FX), Prosenjit Ganguly (Creative Head, Toonz Animation), Nirav Shah (GM, Strategic Planning, Zapak), Anand Gurnani (CEO and Co Founder, AnimationXpress.com), Sumedha Saraogi (VP, Management Office, DQ Entertainment) and Mr. Kannan from HP.

The session propelled into action with the first question addressed to Sumedha on ‘Talent in terms of poaching, the talent crunch, migration, scarcity and how DQ met this challenge.‘ To this Sumedha retorted, “The market is big right now for a host of projects as well as for people to be part of this. India as a service provider has arrived with no dearth of projects. We, at DQ have met this demand of artists and are scaling up training centres almost everywhere, the fastest we can.”

“When we talk about aggregation of games, the idea is to accept, build and offer,” answered Nirav to Ashish‘s question of meeting the challenge of aggregation of Indian games. Zapak as a company currently has mostly internationally aggregated games. It is in the process of talking to Indian studios, but feels that the country still has to make headway in this sphere. “The concept is to reach up to consumer expectations with a mass appeal factor. We are trying to bridge the gap and marry the west with India.”

A question of ‘Challenge in creating IP‘ was directed at Prosenjit of Toonz Animation. According to him the show that has been created has to be enjoyed by a large number of people and it is of utmost importance to determine who the target group is. “There is now a huge demand for content based on previous shows. The challenge that lies here is the refreshing change that we can bring while maintaining the continuity as well.”

As we all know nowadays a lot of stress is being laid on establishing more training institutes and the flipside to this is the pressure that existing education centres are facing to meet the demand. Replying to the question of ‘Pressure of training‘ Naveen Gupta (MAAC) elaborated, “We do face a lot of pressure from studios to provide studio ready students. People in the Indian animation, gaming and VFX industry have to understand that there will be limitations to continually churning out students. To bridge this gap, the industry has to come together, in addition to giving students the confidence of their skills. A major challenge that we as an educational entity face is the initiative to be a faculty member as very often professionals think that they might not get as much recognition in such a stream, as they would in a production environment. Also, there is a need to keep pace with the fast developing technology.”

Yunus Bukhari shared his experience of challenges faced ART.ERY studios when it comes to outsourced work. According to him because of the hype about the industry going to be worth billions of dollars, a lot of non-artistic talent is attracted towards it. “When you think of a company, you think of the people that are part of the company. The VFX market is getting bigger attracting producers to it. From 2002-07 the content of projects has increased but the execution hasn‘t due to the primary reason of lack of trained artists.”

Directing the next question at Anand Gurnani of AnimationXpress.com, Ashish Kulkarni asked, “We hear a lot institutes offering animation courses, but you as a person who is part of the news industry would know about the number of schools, institutes or courses designed specifically for VFX?”.

Reverted Anand, “There are close to a hundred brands offering animation education, but the number of customized courses for a specialization in VFX can be counted on the fingers. We usually see those who learn animation being absorbed into VFX studios.”

Technology and creativity in a production house go hand in hand. “How is technology helping in meeting the challenges of the industry? How do studios meet the infrastructure cost and is it also a challenge to sell the right hardware to a studio?” asked Ahsish Kulkarni to Shashi (HP), to which he answered, “Technology and hardware is the backbone of production. In order to help studios meet the cost of the infrastructure, we have priced the latest versions of most equipment almost on par with the previous ones. As a policy, HP looks at providing the entire infrastructure to a studio and not just portions of systems.”

The critical challenge addressed by Jay Natrajan (MAAC) was that of the increasing number of outsourcing projects being a threat to India and us not being able to handle it. In Jay‘s opinion this is definitely a concern. Senior artists now want to work on IPs as do the bigger the studio as well, adding another dimension to manpower available to complete projects, in addition to retaining people. Outsourcing might not be good from a business perspective but from the creativity angle it is. “The critical challenge staring us in the face is the maturity of the talent in the industry. The responsibility of sticking to a project till its completion cannot be stressed upon more. Unless we make sure that the demands of salaries meet productivity, we‘ll all be out of business.”

The second and last part of the session dealt with ‘Critical Success Factors.‘

According to Sumedha the inevitable creation of IP and creation of content for multiple platforms are essential for success of the industry. Adding to this Prosenjit mentioned consciousness of quality and proper education foundation.

“Innovative formulae, passion and patience with facing the worst situations and improvisation would top my list,” said Younis Bukhari. Opined Naveen Gupta, “Education should pus the bar and interaction with the faculty are extremely important.”

Anand Gurnani stated he believed there was just one point that needed to be worked upon.

“As per AnimationXpress.com statistics, the entire growth of then industry factoring the increased outsourced services work, the 70 odd original Indian animation features announced as well the expansion stage that Indian studios are going through, all this put together means that the industry requires around 20,000 more artists in the coming 12 to 18 months” he said.

Continuing Gurnani commented, “Now if we take into account the fact that more than 30,000 students join animation courses and pass out every year things should be fine. The issue is that around 85 to 90 % of them are not taught as per the industry needs. As simple as the problem is the solution, the academia and industry have to work together to get the perfect fine tuning and we‘ll be there. Rest all is fine”

According to HP‘s Shashi “Being in sync with the latest technology was an additional factor he wanted to point out”

Jai concluded the highly insightful session with his inputs saying, “There has to be a genuine commitment to ethics, quality and genuinely create artists in the studio.”